Darien win first girls swimming Open championship
Trifone will fondly recall how her team gave her an early present for her 50th birthday, ending the season in historic fashion.
Showcasing its superior depth, Darien completed its triple crown season Saturday, winning its first ever CIAC State Open swimming championship at Yale University, scoring 548 points.
New Canaan was the runner-up (439), followed by Greenwich (436.5), which entered the meet as the seven-time defending State Open champion.
"I knew this was a special team the whole season," said Trifone, whose squad also captured the FCIAC and Class L titles this fall. "This year, our team worked more than every other year, between pilates, going to Combine Training -- it was really a combined effort."
New Canaan, which held a 257-232 advantage over Darien following the 100 butterfly, overtook Greenwich for second place by winning the 400-yard freestyle relay, the meets final event. The foursome of senior Maddie Rusch, junior Alex Aliapoulios, Meghan Egan and Jenna Egan touched the wall in 3:30.67, a blink of the eye faster than second-place Greenwich (3:30.69).
"I am ecstatic over our performance today," New Canaan coach David Fine said. "All year long we have been overlooked, so to come out of the meet in second place says a lot about our team. Before states, we said the relays are about swimming as one and they came together today and came out on top."
For the first time since 2004, Greenwich watched another team take a celebratory dip in the pool after the championship meet concluded.
"You never want to finish the year without winning this meet," Cardinals coach Dick Hawks said. "Even though we did well, we're disappointed. We were just barely off our times today and they (Darien) were closer."
The Blue Wave began the meet in style, as the 200-yard medley relay team touched the wall first in 1:48.51. Amity Regional placed second (1:48.81), followed by Greenwich (1:49.82). Senior Olivia Leunis sparked Darien, winning the 200 individual medley in 2:05.81 and the 100 breaststroke (1:04.96). Leunis finished ahead of Greenwich junior Katie Evans in both events.
"I've worked hard all season for this, it's just a matter of finishing the race strong," Leunis said. "We've been competitive throughout the season, so it's been great to race against her."
Senior Caroline Orem gave the Blue Wave a first-place finish in the 100 backstroke, clocking in at :57.31. Orem also placed fourth in the 200 individual medley for Darien, which opened a comfortable 425-337 lead over New Canaan by placing four swimmers in the top 14 in the backstroke.
"Winning three championships my senior year is unreal, it's the best senior year anyone can ask for," said Orem, who, as a freshman in 2009, was a member of the Darien team which won its first FCIAC title. "We put in so much work this season and we worked really well together, which was so awesome. Winning three championships is such a relief."
"I had never won the Open title in the 50 free, so I'm glad I did it my senior year," Rusch said. "I did everything I could to win it and it was a good time, so I'm happy. I'm so proud of our team. We had a small team here with only six kids, but we still did great."
Rusch finished second behind 100-yard butterfly champion Grindall of Amity, who broke her own State Open and state record in the event with a time of :54.16. Caroline O'Brien from Wilton took third in :57.83. Junior Jenna Egan finished fourth in the 200 freestyle, while senior Erin Dunstan was third in the 100 breaststroke for New Canaan, which was the runner-up behind Greenwich a year ago.
Evans had second-place finishes in the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke for Greenwich.
"We definitely went into this meet prepared and we all tried our best we just came up short, "Evans said. "New Canaan had a good meet all around and made the meet closer than we expected. We had a few races that didn't go according to plan."
Senior Maddie Dunn placed fourth in the 50 freestyle and was fifth in the 100 freestyle, junior Kim Hill was fourth in the 100 freestyle, and junior Christina Frias took fourth in the 100 butterfly for the Cardinals.
Amity Regional placed fourth in the meet (295), followed by Hall (225.5), Brookfield (203), Cheshire (199), Norwalk/McMahon (196), Wilton (188) and Staples (152). Trumbull placed 16th and Westhill/Stamford finished 23rd.
Staples junior Verity Abel finished her sensational season in fine fashion. Abel cruised to victory in the 500 freestyle (4:58.47) and posted a second-place finish in the 200 freestyle (1:52.24). Trumbull got a seventh-place finish from junior Alexa Bragg in the 100 backstroke (:59.69).
Junior Kristen Moss placed third in the 200 freestyle (1:53.61) and fifth in the 100 backstroke, while senior Caroline O'Brien was third in the 100 butterfly for Wilton (:57.83).
Norwalk/McMahon was paced by senior Stephanie Czulewicz, who finished fifth in the 200 IM (2:11.35) and ninth in the 100 backstroke.
"I normally go into a race thinking I'm going to win, but I messed up my back to breaststroke turn in the IM," Czulewicz said. "I broke a school record at the LL finals though, so today was the icing on the cake. I think our team showed so much heart today and really pushed hard the entire meet."
Senior Maddie Smart had another strong State Open, finishing second in the 100 freestyle (:51.62) and fifth in the 50 freestyle (:24.24) for Brookfield.
"She helped lead our team to our best finish in the State Open," Brookfield coach Brandt Nigro said. "It was a great way for her to finish her career. We'll be a better program in the future because of the example she set."
Junior Samantha Palicz also finished fourth in the 100 backstroke for Brookfield, which placed third in the 400 freestyle relay.
Sophomore Courtney Ferreira is one of the many swimmers that will return next season for the Blue Wave. Ferreira finished third in the 500 freestyle for Trifone, who will celebrate her 50th birthday next week.
"I told them all year if they win this it will be my birthday present," Trifone said.
CIAC GIRLS SWIMMING OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Darien 548, 2. New Canaan 439, 3. Greenwich 436.5, 4. Amity 295, 5. Hall 225.5, 6. Brookfield 203, 7. Cheshire 199, 8. McMahon/Norwalk 196, 9. Wilton 188, 10. Staples 152, 11. Lauralton Hall 151, 12. Wethersfield 143, 13. Glastonbury 132, 14. Branford 130.5, 15. South Windsor 118, 16. Trumbull 102.5, 17. (tie) Weston and Lyman Hall 97, 19. E.O. Smith 89, 20. Watertown 67, 21. Pomperaug 65, 22. Ledyard 56, 23. Westhill/Stamford 55, 24. Mercy 52.5, 25. (tie) Conard and Ridgefield 49, 27. New Milford 48, 28. Newtown 44.5, 29. Windsor 42, 30. Hand 41, 31. Waterford 40, 32. Newington 39.5, 33. Bunnell 37.5, 34. Holy Cross 28, 35. East Catholic 27, 36. (tie) Sheehan and Berlin 23, 38. East Lyme 22, 39. St. Joseph 18, 40. (tie) St. Paul Catholic and Fairfield Warde 17, 42. (tie) Shelton and Kennedy 15, 44. (tie) Hamden and Fitch 14, 46. Farmington 12, 47. Torrington 10, 48. Sacred Heart 8, 49. Fairfield Ludlowe 6, 50. Sacred Heart Academy 5, 51. Westbrook 2, 52. Bristol Eastern 1.
Winner in each event and regional swimmers in top six
200 medley relay: 1. Darien (Caroline Orem, Victoria Chao, Oliva Leunis, Lauren Rutledge) 1:48.51; 2. Amity (Shannon Earley, Natalie Ambrosey, Dana Grindall, Dana Chung) 1:48.81; 3. Greenwich (Isobel Walker, Riley Ennis, Katie Evans, Porter Carlson) 1:49.82; 4. Wilton (Stephanie Moriarty, Linsay Cooney, Caroline O'Brien, Grace Hendee) 1:50.28; 5. Trumbull (Alexa Bragg, Lisa Ward, Mollie Coleman, Tara Merkle) 1:50.99; 200 freestyle: 1. Jessica Hespeler (Ledyard) 1:50.75; 2. Verity Abel (Staples) 1:52.24; 3. Kristen Moss (Wilton) 1:53.61; 4. Jenna Egan (New Canaan) 1:54.28; 6. Kim Hill (Greenwich) 1:54.91; 200 IM: 1. Leunis (Darien) 2:05.81; 2. Evans (Greenwich) 2:07.10; 3. Mary Spillane (Lauralton Hall) 2:09.14; 4. Orem (Darien) 2:09.23; 5. Stephanie Czulewicz (McMahon/Norwalk) 2:11.35; 6. O'Brien (Wilton) 2:11.52; 50 freestyle: 1. Maddie Rusch (New Canaan) 23.51; 3. Grindall (Amity) 23.88; 4. Madeline Dunn (Greenwich) 24.01; 5. Madeline Smart (Brookfield) 24.24; 100 butterfly: 1. Grindall (Amity) 54.16 (State Open record); 2. Rusch (New Canaan) 55.69; 3. O'Brien (Wilton) 57.83; 4. Christina Frias (Greenwich) 58.63; 6. Kira Page (New Milford) 59.18; 100 freestyle: 1. Hespeler (Ledyard) 51.58; 2. Smart (Brookfield) 51.62; 4. Hill (Greenwich) 52.59; 5. Dunn (Greenwich) 52.60; 500 freestyle: 1. Abel (Staples) 4:58.47; 3. Courtney Ferreria (Darien) 5:08.44; 4. Anna Lu (Amity) 5:08.84; 5. Madeline Snow (Amity) 5:09.59; 200 freestyle relay: 1. New Canaan (J. Egan, Alex Aliapoulios, Libby O'Hare, Rusch) 1:36.56; 2. Greenwich (Dunn, Frias, Carlson, Hill) 1:38.37; 3. Darien (Rutledge, Leunis, Ferreria, Amanda Bieler) 1:38.78; 4. Amity (Chung, Snow, Lu, Grindall) 1:39.01; 5. McMahon/Norwalk (Olivia Haskell, Katherine Wargo, Jessica Rodney, Lauren Czulewicz) 1:39.21; 100 backstroke: 1. Orem (Darien) 57.31; 2. Spillane (Lauralton Hall) 58.16; 3. Page (New Milford) 58.65; 4. Samantha Palicz (Brookfield) 59.04; 5. Moss (Wilton) 59.19; 100 breaststroke: 1. Leunis (Darien) 1:04.96; 2. Evans (Greenwich) 1:05.61; 3. Erin Dunstan (New Canaan) 1:06.68; 5. O'Hare (New Canaan) 1:07.67; 400 freestyle relay: 1. New Canaan (Rusch, Aliapoulios, Meghan Egan, J. Egan) 3:30.67; 2. Greenwich (Hill, Frias, Evans, Dunn) 3:30.69; 3. Brookfield (Rachel Brown, Smart, Stephanie Ferrarie, Palicz) 3:35.94; 4. Darien (Bieler, Julia Stobbie, Orem, Ferreria) 3:36.27; 5. McMahon/Norwalk (Wargo, S. Czulewicz, Haskell, L. Czulewicz) 3:36.62; 6. Lauralton Hall (Kathleen Brennan, Alena Sowka, Kaitlyn Joy, Spillane) 3:39.36.